bosnia report
No. 8 January - 1995
 
The Serbian Aggressor Can be Defeated
by General Martin Spegelj

France, Great Britain and Russia support the creation of a Greater Serbia, which means accepting the results of Serbian conquests in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia. For this reason they favour an immediate ceasefire and freezing of the status quo, with minor corrections. In the final settlement, each party would gain the territory which it actually holds This was the meaning of the famous Owen maps. This approach assumes partition of Bosnia between Croatia and Serbia, leaving Bosnian Muslims the theoretical possibility of establishing a state of their own, squeezed between a Greater Croatia and a Greater Serbia. Lord Owen's maps outlined, in effect, the creation of ethnically pure statelets. That is why we can speak of British responsibility for the genocide and ethnic cleansing this plan provoked.

A partition of Bosnia, however, even if it could be implemented would not lead to peace. The Serbian-held territories in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegonina, with the exception of Eastern Slavonia, are largely barren. Knin and the Knin Krajina, Kordun, Banija and all that space in Bosnia-Herzegovina which the Serbians today control is largely incapable of self-support. Serbia is a poor country and will be unable for long to sustain those passive regions economically or militarily. Those conquests will be a permanent drain upon its resources, threatening it with a total economic collapse. The Croat-Muslim conflict in Bosnia, on the other hand, has opened up for it the possibility of further expansion to the west. After a period of recovery Serbia will attack both Muslims and Croats, with the aim of acquiring part of the Adriatic coast from Zadar to Prevlaka. In this way it would gain access to the sea, some key Adriatic ports, the navigable Neretva river, Bosnia-Herzegovina's significant energy resources and, of course, tourisam. Such a Greater Serbia would indeed be viable. President Tudjman's preference for partition of Bosnia rather than cooperation with its government thus runs contrary to Croatia';s vital interests.

A partition of Bosnia, rather than leading to peace, will only ensure a continuation of this war. Indeed, the war will last until the Serbian aggressor experiences total defeat. This does not mean that negotiations are unimportant. But a political solution stands a chance only when backed by a respectable military force. Croatia, by omitting to create such a force, is not reduced to signiÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÔ ng every bit of paper that the international negotiators place before its politicians. However, a new and crucial factor has in the meantime appeared, which findamentally alters the military sitution in Bosnia That is the Bosnian Army. This army now numbers some 150,000 high disciplined and motivated men. Its officer corps is extremely competent and professional. Most of its units are maintained in a state of high mobility, ie. not bogged down in the trenches, hence are capable of constant initiative. This is an army which not just Serbia and the Pale Sarbs, but also the 'Herzeg-Bosna' leaders, have increasingly come to respect. In addition, 41% of the former JNA's military industry is located on Bosnian territory, mostly in areas under Bosnian government control. These factories have now been moved into the hills and provide the Bosnian Army with sufficient quantities of mortars, mortar shells, other ammunition, etc. This suggests that while the Pale Serbs may be able to win an occasional battle, globally speaking they are losing this war. The growing strength of the Bosnian Army should, of course, bind Croatia even more to respect the Washington Agreement and support genuinely - rather tha n just verbally -an integral and sovereign Bosnia Herzegovinia.

The situation is such that Croatia and the HVO must come out firmly in favour of a final liberation of Bosnia-Herzsegonina at the earliest possible date. Yet, as we have seen, Croatia did nothing when the Bihac enclave - of great strategic importance for both Croatia and Bosnia - was attacked. The UN General Secretary and his envoy Mr Akashi, of course, bear the main responsibility for the use made of the UN PA in the Serbian offensive on the enclave. But this does not excuse Croatia for not intervening to stop it Izetbegovic had requested intervention by the Croatian Army, but Tudjman refused - in deference to the Contact Group countries and to Serbia. Our President keeps saying: 'We cannot do anything against the wishes of the international community, because the Serbs would then destroy our vital centres with their missiles.' I ask the President why we do not have similar missiles, so that we can respond in equal measure. A balance in weapons would most probably prevent those missiles from being launched. It is obvious that such systems can be obtained on the world market, and under quite favourab le terms, irrespective of the arms e mbargo All our military experts agree that provided there is cooperation between Croatia and Bosnia, the winter and spring ould be used to effect a decisive change in the balance of forces, making victory possible in 1995. The Serbian aggressor, on the othr hand, is aware that time works against him. His only hope is the support of oountries like Britain, France and Russia. That is why these countries are getting nervous and urgently demanding a 'peaceful ' solution, claiming all the while that it is Bosnia which is losing the war.

It is doubtful, on the other hand, that President Tudjman wants to win. He seems to be working according to a different agenda. Despite the Washington Agreement, which should have led to a dismantling of 'Herzeg-Bosna'. we see this entity behaving more and more like Karadzic's 'Republika Srpska.' Some of its leaders have even taken to speaking of 'former Bosnia-Herzegovina.' Dario Kordic's recent visit to northern and central Bosnia has set off a process of creating 'ethnically pure' Croat municipalities, which clearly indicates that Croatia has not given up the aim of annexing parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina. This partitioning policy is kep hidden from our parliament and public, despite the fact that the war in Croatia and Bosnia is one and the same war, and if Bosnia were to lose it so would Croatia.

Rather than joining Serbia in the destruction of its neighbour, Croatia should say 'No' to the Contact Group plans and turn its attention towards creating an army capable of liberating its own occupied territories and helping Bosnia to achieve the same aim. ÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÔ

General Spegelj was Commander of the Socialist Republic of Croatia's Territorial Defence in the first half of the 1980s and commander of the JNA's Fifth Military District (HQ. Zagreb) in the second half, but was retired from active service on the eve of the war. In 1990 he became successively Croatia's minister of defence, army chief of staff, and inspector-general of armed forces. His disagreements on military matters with President Tudjman led eventually to his resignation from the Croatian Army.

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